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11/6 Big Ten Preview: Opening Day

Preview all of Monday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-’24 season opens on Monday night. After months of waiting, we’re finally here and the Big Ten has a loaded first night, with most of the league in action. The highlight will be a neutral court matchup between Rutgers and Princeton.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Princeton Tigers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (Peacock)
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 7

After three seasons of NCAA Tournament quality play, Rutgers regressed last year, falling short of the Big Dance and landing itself in the NIT. It was a tough pill to swallow and got even tougher after a handful of key players from last season departed, including forward Caleb McConnell and guard Paul Mulcahy.

Rutgers will now hope to bounce back from last March’s disappointment and will begin those efforts with an intriguing matchup against Princeton on Monday night. The Scarlet Knights look better on paper, but Princeton is coming off an impressive 23-9 campaign, wherein the Tigers made the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Senior Tosan Evbuomwan was the key piece in that run, but he is now gone.

The key to this one will be in the backcourt. Can Rutgers slow down Matt Allocco and get enough offensive production to pull away? It’s a major chance for Derek Simpson to show he has improved from last season’s missteps. True freshman Gavin Griffiths is also expected to get serious playing time there. The two will have their hands full, but this should be a win for the Scarlet Knights.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Rutgers here.

  • Pick: Rutgers

The Rest:

-Eastern Illinois Panthers at No. 25 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 29

While this game looks relatively lopsided on paper, there should be a few interesting things for fans to watch for on Monday night. The most significant will be how Illinois’ wing group looks early this season. With Matthew Mayer gone, players like Ty Rodgers and Luke Goode are expected to get bigger roles. Can they develop into star players?

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Illinois here.

  • Pick: Illinois

-James Madison Dukes at No. 4 Michigan State Spartans

After months of waiting, Spartan fans can finally rejoice as Michigan State returns to action on Monday night. This is widely expected to be a banner season in East Lansing, with what looks like one of Tom Izzo’s most loaded teams in years. However, those efforts have to start somewhere and Monday will be the beginning of whatever this campaign entails.

Obviously, Michigan State is a substantial favorite heading into tip. The Spartans have more experience and are easily more talented. With that said, James Madison isn’t terrible. The Dukes finished in the top 100 in KenPom last year and are ranked 136th entering this season, which is roughly the range of the bottom tier of the Big Ten. The group has played quality defense in recent years, so expect the Spartans to have their work cut out.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Michigan State here.

  • Pick: Michigan State

-Bethune Cookman Wildcats at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota by 18

After four straight seasons of losing campaigns, Minnesota is hoping to right the ship this year under head coach Ben Johnson. Tortunately, the team gets an easy opener with an absolutely horrendous Bethune Cookman team. The Wildcats are regarded as one of the worst teams in Division I and Minnesota should be able to beat them senseless on Monday night. If not, panic bells should start going off.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Minnesota here.

  • Pick: Minnesota

-Lindenwood Lions at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 26

While the Huskers fell short of the postseason last March, the team showed tremendous promise down the stretch, likely saving head coach Fred Hoiberg’s job. Fans will naturally be hoping Nebraska can take the next step this time around with what projects to be a significantly better roster. Keisei Tominaga is expected to be the star.

Unfortunately, like Minnesota, we won’t learn much about the Huskers on opening night on account of their opponent. Lindenwood is absolutely horrible. Nebraska is expected to run them off the floor. Expect a lopsided affair.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Nebraska here.

  • Pick: Nebraska

-Binghamton Bearcats at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 21

The Wildcats are coming off a tremendous season, wherein the team finished 22-12 overall and made the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. The team was led by a handful of upperclassmen like Boo Buie and Chase Audige. Now, some of those faces are now gone, as Northwestern tries to replicate last year’s success.

Like a few other matchups on this list, Northwestern will enter this one as a substantial favorite. Binghamton enters this fall ranked 297th on KenPom and for good reason. The team went 13-18 last season and is hardly expected to compete in a game like this. Expect an easy win for Northwestern.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Northwestern here.

  • Pick: Northwestern

-Oakland Grizzlies at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State by 21

The Buckeyes are coming off one of the program’s worst season in recent memory, as the team finished 16-19 overall and missed the postseason. It was Ohio State’s first losing record since the Jim O’Brien era and the first March without a postseason since 2017.

The good news for fans is Ohio State enters this fall with improved depth and what projects to be better talent than last season. The program returns a variety of key players from last season like Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle and adds new pieces like Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle.

Unfortunately, we won’t learn a ton about this team on Monday night, as Oakland enters this game with a severely flawed roster. Expect the Grizzlies to hang on for a bit, but fade as we get around halftime.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Ohio State here.

  • Pick: Ohio State

-Delaware State Hornets at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State by 18

Perhaps no Big Ten team has more uncertainty than the Nittany Lions entering this season. While Penn State put together an impressive run to last year’s NCAA Tournament, the core of that group is now gone, with head coach Micah Shrewsberry’s exit and the roster exodus that followed.

The program has since hired Mike Rhoades from VCU, who cobbled together a roster in the spring and summer. By all accounts, things look better than they first appeared, but it still projects as a building season for the Nittany Lions. Perhaps the most interesting addition will be Ace Baldwin, who averaged 12.7 points per game last season. Expect some growing pains, but not on Monday, as Penn State hosts a vastly overmatched Delaware State squad.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Penn State here.

  • Pick: Penn State

-Samford Bulldogs at No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue by 20

The Boilermakers enter this season with mixed emotions. While Purdue expects to have one of (if not) the best rosters in the country, the missteps of last year won’t be soon forgotten, especially the loss to Farleigh Dickinson in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s going to be a tough reality to live with this season and it will be up to Matt Painter and his staff to get his players to overcome it.

Fortunately, the team has all the pieces to do just that. Purdue enters this season with an absolutely loaded roster led by superstar big man Zach Edey. KenPom projects Purdue as its top team this season and it’s hard to disagree. The roster is impressive and the team has sky high potential.

Purdue will begin those efforts on Monday night at home against a pesky Samford squad. The Bulldogs went 21-11 last season and are a solid step above you’re typical “buy game” opponent. Samford has the pieces to hang around if Purdue plays poorly. However, they have absolutely nothing to stop Edey. Expect Purdue to rely heavily on the big men en route to a comfortable win.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Purdue here.

  • Pick: Purdue

-Arkansas State Red Wolves at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 17

The Badgers were another team who had a disappointing 2022-’23 campaign, but seem poised to put that behind them this time around. Wisconsin returns much of last year’s group that made the NIT and add a key addition in guard AJ Storr. The team should be well set to make a quality run this season and should get started with an overmatched Arkansas State team on Monday night. The Red Wolverines are ranked 172nd on KenPom and are coming off a 13-20 season.

You can also read BTPowerhouse’s full season preview of Wisconsin here.

  • Pick: Wisconsin